Egypt closes Rafah crossing

Egyptian authorities close Rafah border crossing with Gaza, after opening it for three days for humanitarian cases.

Elad Benari,

Gazans wait to cross into Egypt through Rafah border crossing
Gazans wait to cross into Egypt through Rafah border crossing
Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Egyptian authorities on Tuesday closed the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, after opening it for three consecutive days for humanitarian cases, the Ma’an news agency reports.

It was the second time the crossing was opened in both directions since the beginning of the year.

The Palestinian Authority’s borders and crossings committee said in a statement that 1,527 passengers left Gaza to Egypt during the three-day opening. In addition, 924 passengers entered Gaza.

The crossing had previously been opened on January 28, when Gazans were permitted to cross for four consecutive days.

Egyptian authorities have kept the Rafah crossing virtually sealed since a terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2014, though they have temporarily reopened the crossing several times since that attack, mostly for the passage of humanitarian cases.

Egypt blames Hamas terrorists for providing the weapons for the lethal 2014 attack, which killed 30 soldiers, through one of its smuggling tunnels under the border to Sinai. Hamas denies the allegations.

In addition to keeping the crossing closed, Egypt has shut down the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which terrorists use to smuggle weapons, and has also built a buffer zone along the border, expelling large numbers of people from their homes for that purpose.

The latest opening of the Rafah crossing comes as Hamas attempts to repair ties with Egypt, which were strong during the rule of former President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, but have been strained under his successor, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh recently met in Cairo with Egyptian officials to discuss ways to improve the strained relations.

On Sunday, Haniyeh claimed that Hamas had opened “a new page” in its relations with Egypt, adding that the group is interested in maintaining close contacts with Egypt and intends to remove all causes of concern for the Egyptian leadership, especially in the field of security.

Hamas consistently blasts Egypt for closing the border crossing with Gaza, and has also accused Israel of imposing a “siege” on Gaza. Israel, however, regularly allows humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, even as Hamas continues to attack southern Israel with rockets and openly threatens to destroy the Jewish state.




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